Women in Technology and Science

WITS is 30!

  • 3 November 2020

Julie Hogan WITS Chair 2020 writes:

We are 30! Since WITS was founded in 1990, there’s a lot to celebrate and to remember. As Ireland’s independent national voluntary for women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), we thrive on the energy of our multi-talented members around the country so we can be much more than the sum of our parts. As current chair of WITS, I am frankly in awe of these amazing women and their achievements. Here’s to another 30 fabulous years!

Watch the 30th anniversary video and enjoy these highlights from 30 years of Women in Technology and Science (1990-2020).

  1. 3 November 1990 - WITS is founded in DCU by science journalist, Mary Mulvihill to provide a network for women working in science and technology in Ireland. Professor Susan McKenna-Lawlor arrives to speak wearing a lovely fur coat and driving a Rolls. ESB sponsors the 1990 launch and later becomes a corporate member.
  2. April 1991 - President Mary Robinson agrees to be WITS Patron and subsequently opened the 1991 WITS AGM. President Robinson challenges WITS to tell the story of women scientists and pioneers. The first of these books, a collection of brief biographies of 19th century scientists, “Stars, Shells and Bluebells”, is published in 1997, sponsored by the Department of Education.
  3. September 1993 - The first role model day for schools takes place at Mount Temple Comprehensive School supported by Prof Jane Grimson, chair of the school Board. It provides a unique opportunity for 120 students from 17 schools in the Dublin area to meet working women scientists, technologists and engineers. Subsequently with the aid of a grant from the Department of Education, WITS publishes 'Suitable Jobs For a Woman' telling real stories of 20 women working in STEM in Ireland. It is circulated to all secondary schools in Ireland. At the start of the millennium, WITS were commissioned by the Department of Education to produce a role model pack for third-level students, as well as issuing the previous role model booklet in CD-ROM format for secondary schools in 2002.
  4. 1995-1997 – WITS Food Industry NOW New Opportunities for Women project is a collaboration between Golden Vale, Green Core, Kerry Group, UCC and the Department of Agriculture to develop and retain women through targeted training and mentoring.
  5. August 1998 - the unveiling of the plaque to marine biologist Maude Delap on Valentia Island. This was the first national commemorative plaque for which WITS secured funding. This has been followed by many other plaques including Matilda Knowles in October 2014 and Dr Sheila Tinney in 2018.
  6. November 2004 The launch of the WITS Talent Bank project by the Norwegian Ambassador and Dr Eucharia Meehan WITS. at the National College of Ireland. The Talent Bank, an update of the 1994 version, is a directory providing background information on over 150 women working in Irish science and technology, who were qualified, and willing to participate on state boards and education bodies.
  7. February 2008 - WITS and the Open University in collaboration with Inter-Trade Ireland launch the Re-Enter one-year all-island pilot project to help trained, skilled and experienced women to rejoin the workforce after a career break. The programme combines a 10-week online course with mentoring and an internship in industry.
  8. 2009 – “Lab Coats and Lace” is published telling the stories of groundbreaking women engineers, computer scientists and crystallographers from the 20th century. In 2020, the e-book version is launched at Airfield House.
  9. June 2011 - WITS Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Professor Dervilla Donnelly, Professor of Organic Chemistry at UCD for her outstanding contribution to science and to women in science. Professor Donnelly is a WITS honorary member, spoke at the WITS launch in 1990 and gave the 2017 Mary Mulvihill Lecture.
  10. June 2014 - WITS wins Silicon Republic Top Role Model For Advocacy award as part of the Women Invent Tomorrow campaign.
  11. December 2014 - free student affiliate membership agreed for undergraduate and postgraduate students at the AGM. Student societies and groups promoting women in STEM have been subsidised and supported by WITS in UCC, UL, UCD and UL.
  12. November 2015 - to mark Mary’s death earlier in the year, the first Mary Mulvihill Lecture is given by Lady Alicia Clements of Birr Castle. The lecture will be held every 1-2 years. In 2019, the speaker is Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library.
  13. February 2019 - Life Sciences Careers Forum for students and those early in their careers is held in the Science Gallery advising on negotiating the “career pyramid”. A Galway event follows in September.
  14. December 2019 – WITS Policy Calls is adopted by the 2019 AGM. WITS is a member of the NWCI and the Wheel, and advocates for policy change at national level. This follows the 2016 WITS Action Manifesto and the 2004 Getting the Balance Right in Irish Science policy documents.
  15. March 2020 - the planned Physics Careers Forum in TCD is postponed due to Covid-19. WITS moves to online events with chair yoga, a webinar in collaboration with corporate member Enterprise Ireland on First Steps To Bringing Your Business Concept To Life, and Salary Negotiation Workshops in partnership with Gendelity.
  16. November 2020 – WITS celebrates its 30th anniversary by launching a video of its achievements.

Read the WITS is 30! article (p24) In Converse the Official Publication of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine.